Not another Goa plan: 12 offbeat vacation spots in India to escape the crowd
Take the flight route less travelled
It’s a sunny morning. Sitting in a quaint Parisian cafe, you’re eating the perfect croissant — as flaky as it is buttery — sipping on a warm cup of caramel macchiato as you devour your latest comfort read. But alas, it’s back to real life as the cacophony of your alarm’s ringtone crashes into your dream world. The promise of a chaotic morning awaits, making you burrow further into your comfy kambal.
The third sequel of COVID is back to wreak your international travel plans, and Instagram is warning you that everyone and their colony padosans are currently booking tickets to Goa. We’re here to help you steer clear of the crowd, and stay as safe as you can from the newest variant. Whether it’s a family trip with your kids, a rowdy girls’ trip with friends, a romantic getaway with your significant other or a dream solo escape, these are our favourite offbeat vacation spots in India.
12 offbeat vacation spots in India other than Goa
For your Hum Saath Saath Hai family trip
Bannerghatta National Park, Karnataka
If your kids love an adventure amidst nature, the Outback Experience at the Bannerghatta National Park, Karnataka is for you. Owned by the Ross family, who chose to open up their family residence on the outskirts of the park to the public in the form of farm stays, the Outback Experience hosts camps and workshops for young naturalists through adventure-based activities, birding, and photography training led by Philip Ross, an award-winning photographer.
The campground is located on the outskirts of the Park, which is home to wild Asiatic elephants, leopards, wild dogs, sloths, and over 150 different bird species. With birding, nature hikes, wildlife tracking, photography, and engaging nature-based activities, this is an exciting experience unlike any other.
The average cost for a family of four is Rs 22,900, which is inclusive of all meals, and the activities mentioned in the itinerary. For information about camps and workshops, call Phillip Ross at +91 99001-47018 or send an email to [email protected]
As the national park is only an hour away from Bengaluru, the nearest airport is the Kempegowda International Airport. On your way back to the city, we suggest you make a visit to the NIMHANS brain museum where your kids can actually hold a brain in the palm of their hands, we kid you not.
This seaside town boasts several magnificent sea forts going back to the 12th century, as well as water activities such as scuba diving and snorkelling and delicious cuisine. The formidable Sindhudurg fort, which is surrounded on one side by the Western Ghats and on the other by the Arabian Sea, is the main attraction here.
If you have kids older than 10, you can consider visiting Vengurla rocks, which are a famous destination for scuba diving. It is also a marine birds breeding and nesting site, home to the Bridled Tern and Indian Swiftlet. The prices per person vary from Rs 2,000 to Rs 6,000.
For a quiet day, you can snuggle up with a book on the picturesque beaches that border the Konkan coastline — Tarkarli, Shiroda, Bhogwe – while your kids play on the sand. Grab a delectable seafood feast by taking a short stroll across the street to Atithi Bamboo. Spend the evening wandering down the coast from Niviti’s historic fort ruins, which overlook the Arabian Sea. A sunset swim would be a great way to end the day.
Sindhudurg may be reached by car by the NH-17, which passes via the important cities of Kankavli, Kudal, and Sawantwadi, or by rail via the scenic route of Konkan Railway, which makes stops at Kankavli, Sindhudurg, Kudal, and Sawantwadi. Ratnagiri, Belgaum (Karnataka), and Dabolim are the closest airports (Goa).
Can you imagine yourself walking on a bridge made entirely out of aerial roots and tree trunks? Sounds like a medieval dream, doesn’t it? Except that the Jingmaham Living Root Bridge in Mawlynnong, Meghalaya will make your imagination come to life. The single-decker bridge, which is almost 300 years old, was built across a creek by interweaving aerial roots of rubber and betel tree trunks. Sticks, stones, bamboos, and leaves have been used to reinforce the roots as they have continued to grow entangled. The kids will be talking about this marvel of nature for days to come, and you’ll become the parents of the year for the best vacation ever.
Mawlynnong is known as Asia’s Cleanest Village because of its natural beauty and captivating appeal. The charming town of Dawki in the West Jaintia Hills is around 30 kilometres from Mawlynnong village. While driving from Mawlynnong to Dawki, you’ll pass by the majestic Bophill Falls. From the town, you can get a glimpse of the exquisite emerald Umngot river and even take a boat ride on it. The International Radcliffe Line, which marks the border between India and Bangladesh, can also be seen from here.
You’ll find the Mawlynnong waterfall as you trek through the woods from Dawki to Mawlynnong village. The staggeringly beautiful location continues to be devoid of human intervention and is a sight to behold. The Mawlynnong waterfall flows into the same river that separates India and Bangladesh.
The most convenient route to get to Mawlynnong is to fly to Shillong, which is 78 kilometres away. From the airport, buses and taxis are available to take you to the village.
For your Ye Jawani Hai Deewani moment with friends
The Andaman Islands
If your friends have been planning that Goa trip for years to no avail, it’s time you leave the planning to the experts and go all out with the Emerald Isle experience in the Andamans by Foliage Outdoors.
The Andaman Islands are a fusion of whimsical colonial allure and incredible scenic wonders, with a trek to Elephant Beach through an actual rainforest, a deep dive into British architectural ruins from colonial times, and those moments of introspection as you walk down the serene white Havelock beach at sunset.
Camping on the beach has its perks, as you can easily enjoy a game of volleyball with your friends or go for a dip in the calm blue water. For the most daring explorers, Andaman provides a number of thrilling water sports including snorkelling, scuba diving, coral safaris, and more that let you get up and personal with the vibrant coral life.
Their packages are available for 5 nights and 6 days for Rs 45,500 per head, which is inclusive of accommodation, meals and the entry fees and sightseeing as per the itinerary.
Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh
If you and your friends are adrenaline junkies who thrive on adventure sports, Bir Billing will get your nerves kicking. Located in Himachal Pradesh, Bir Billing is a famous destination for paragliding in the country. The experience is enhanced even more during winters as you’ll be surrounded by snow-clad mountains.
Ever since 2015, when it hosted the Paragliding World Cup, the small village has witnessed a boom in its popularity. However, Bir has managed to retain its authentic Himachali charm unlike some other renowned towns in the state like Shimla or Kullu.
Imagine sipping on your hot caramel latte while gazing at snow-capped mountains and thriving tea gardens. Add to that the blend of fresh flavours of mutton momos, now who can say no to that?
Bir is well-known for its Tibetan community and has a number of Buddhist monasteries worth visiting. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche founded the Deer Park Institute, a renowned centre for the study of classical Indian spiritual traditions.
In Bir and Billing, lodging alternatives are limited. Although there are a few guesthouses and resorts in Bir, tourists prefer to stay in Palampur since there are more choices. The Chandpur tea estate is home to the majority of inexpensive hotels and cottages. Neugal Khad has a number of mid-range resorts. Many privately owned guesthouses are also available in the town for a low-cost stay or you could consider a vintage hotel that provides luxurious accommodations.
The best method to get to Bir is to fly to Kangra, which is around 68 kilometres away from the village.
Khimsar village, Rajasthan
Khimsar is a tiny settlement on the fringes of the Great Thar Desert in Rajasthan. Peppered with mud huts that enhance its rustic charm, the village’s centre has a water body that appears as a charming oasis amid the barren desert. You can head to the heritage hotel Sand Dunes Village to embark on camel safaris across the desert’s golden sandy slopes.
Challenge your friends to a camel race — or a bullock race, if you’re feeling too adventurous — at the Nagaur Festival if you’re visiting in the months of January and February. You can also enjoy the traditional folk music and dance forms of the region at the festival.
This region’s speciality activities include desert adventure sports, animal safaris, and historic sightseeing trips. Visit the Khimsar Fort for a peek into the hundreds of years of history that are encased behind its walls. Panchala Black Buck Reserve is home to a rare species of blackbuck.
Khimsar is well linked by air, rail and road. The nearest airport to the location is Jodhpur Airport. This airport has regular flights from Jaipur, Mumbai, Delhi, and Udaipur. As this place lies on the Jodhpur-Nagaur-Bikaner Highway, you can also make a road trip out of it — your own Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara moment, if you will — if you live in North India.
For that Tamasha-like vacation with your significant other
A top pick for vacation spots in India, Gangtok is brimming with natural attractions, from majestic snow-capped mountains to charming lush green woods and Buddhist monasteries, and will serve as the perfect background to your romantic trip with your significant other.
Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak, is visible from the city. Treks to Mount Kanchenjunga’s base camp or a visit to the Kanchenjunga National Park are available for those who want a closer look. You may also set up a base camp in Kanchenjunga’s foothills and spend a night or two here.
Take a cable car journey to the top of the city of Gangtok for a spectacular sunset vista. If you and your partner are big foodies, the Sikkimese cuisine, including Phagshapa, Momo, Thukpam, is a must-try.
Visit Magnan, a residential village 65 kilometres from Gangtok that celebrates a three-day music festival every year in December, where musicians from all across the region and other Northeast states perform. Adventure activities such as paragliding and mountain biking are also offered here.
You can picnic on the shores of Tsomgo Changu lake, which is 40 kilometres from Gangtok at a height of 12,310 feet. The lake’s icy blue waters reflect the Himalayas’ massive pinnacles, creating a breathtaking spectacle.
Bagdogra, West Bengal, is the closest airport to Gangtok, from which you may take a taxi to Sikkim’s capital.
The Bundela rulers constructed numerous palaces and temples in Orchha throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. The chattris of the buildings that dot the landscape are one of the most distinctive sights. It’s a remarkable scene to see the spires against the sky in the morning or at nightfall. Then there’s Jehangir Mahal, the Raja Mahal from the 17th century, and the fountain-studded Phool Bagh.
But the best thing to do in Orchha is to sit by the river Betwa and watch the world go by. Rafting and boating are open for thrill-seekers.
The nearest airport is Gwalior, which is 126 kilometres away.
Munroe Island, Kerala
Munroe, with its palm-fringed beaches, is a hidden gem that provides a welcome reprieve from Alleppey’s bustling crowds. The Kallada River and Ashtamudi Lake surround this picturesque island, giving incredible views of the lush green coconut plantation.
Begin with a relaxing canoe journey through the most beautiful waterways, stunning lagoons, lush green coconut plantations, and narrow bridges.
On a stroll around the island, you’ll see playful kingfishers, magnificent Brahminy kites, and graceful egrets up close. Finish your walk with a relaxing soak in the river. The Munroe Island Lake Resort is a beautiful island hideaway, with friendly residents and scrumptious fresh fish specialities.
You can fly down to the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport. Rail, road, and waterways all connect to the island. Locals and guests must use government-run boat services to go to the Peringalam ward.
For your Queen moment
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life in your search for vacation spots in India, Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat and Spa is a great option, with its dedicated dharana and yoga programmes, wellness programs, and forest hikes. You can experience the peaceful life and take in the natural surroundings while hidden deep in the Sahyadri mountains at Hilton.
Imagine gazing out your window onto the verdant slopes of the Sahyadris while biting into a slice of exquisitely flavoured stone-oven pizza. Oh, and a cold coffee to round out the sensory overload, because why not? It doesn’t get much better than this.
An overnight stay can cost around Rs 30,515, which is inclusive of meals.
Lorded over by snow-capped hills, Turtuk is a beautiful village in Ladakh. This hamlet on our list of offbeat vacation spots in India is renowned not just for being the country’s last village, but also for being split by a border.
Turtuk was claimed by Pakistan after India regained independence in 1947 and remained a part of the nation until the Indo-Pakistan war in 1971, when it was relegated to the status of a village split by a border.
It’s not simply the village’s geopolitical significance that makes it a unique addition to your India travels. Turtuk’s attractiveness is heightened by its distinct cultural mix and old world charm, which it has managed to keep owing to its family-run enterprises, simple lifestyle, and absence of Wi-Fi.
Also, don’t forget to try Turtuk’s famed yak butter tea during your visit.
Drive 114 kilometres out of Pondicherry, via Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam District, for three hours and you’ll arrive in one of the quaintest vacation spots in India — Tharangambadi, a small fishing hamlet on the Coromandel Coast, where the Danes first landed. It’s so calm you can hear the rasp of the ocean as the Bay of Bengal pummels the shoreline.
Tharangamabadi’s calm demeanour makes it an off-beat location best enjoyed by a select few, and there’s no better place to do it than at Neemrana Hotels’ quiet Bungalow on the Beach. The Bungalow on the Beach is one of the most remarkable, with a Pandya temple from the early 14th century on the left and a 17th-century Danish fort on the right. An overnight stay at the hotel starts at Rs 7,559, which includes breakfast and Wi-Fi.
Tharangambadi is home to India’s thickest ozone layer, making it the ideal spot to take a breath, relax, and feel revitalised while travelling along Tamil Nadu’s culturally rich temple trail.